Eighty years ago, the American psychologist Walter Pitkin was credited with coining a phrase which summarised the reinvigorated zest for life in what was then perceived to be middle age. "Life begins at 40" and was, he wrote in a self-help book of the same title, "the revolutionary outcome of our new era".
Pitkin's adage has seemed to shape people's self-regard during the four score years since, causing them almost to draw comfort from the ticking onwards of our body clocks.
However, as true as it might have been in 1932, Pitkin's observations now look a little dog-eared and dated. The speed with which the concepts of well-being, convenience and age have altered has been staggering.
In the last 30 years in particular, increasing ease of travel has broadened our horizons just as technology has seemed to bring the entire globe into devices no larger than the palms of our hands.
The impact has been staggering, not least on the family. The number of couples living together without marrying has doubled since 1996 while the latest figures suggest that 42 per cent of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce.
Even so, that doesn't mean to say that those who aspire to wedded bliss are on the retreat. On the contrary, in fact, according to data just released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It has revealed that there were 247,890 marriages in England and Wales during 2011, a rise of 1.7 per cent.
Although well below the 351,973 recorded 30 years before, it marks another annual signal that there are still a great many people for whom marriage represents something of a 'gold standard' in relationship terms.
As is often the case, the most significant elements only really emerge when one digs into the detailed numbers which have been released.
It transpires that the middle-aged - women between 55 and 59 and men over 60 - show the greatest rate of increase of marriage for any demographic group.
In a way, we should not be surprised at the level of relationship tectonics experienced by people over the age of 50. Late last year, the ONS also disclosed that the number of divorces among those aged 60-plus had doubled in the space of a decade.
However, taken together, the figures underline the growing sense of dynamism in the domestic circumstances of the middle-aged which almost gives the lie to Mr Pitkin's wisdom.
As I and my colleagues in Pannone's Family department are all too well aware from dealings with clients, life now, it appears, is not necessarily over just because you reach the age of 55.
It's impossible to make absolute conclusions from individual cases but it would seem that people of middle-age now find it easier to establish new relationships than their parents or grandparents might have done.
That, in turn, could be partially down to the ability of technology - and things such as online dating which it facilitates - to bring people together.
No longer does middle-age have to be a reason for cardigans, slippers and settling into the autumn of one's years. Now, it brings a second burst of life, albeit with an eye on the future.
One other feature of the increase in marriage among the over-50s is, I believe, consideration for loved ones. As they get older, couples who might well have been living together are obliged to contemplate how best to protect the future financial well-being of their families.
There are great disparities between the rights of cohabitees and spouses should their partners die, something which both the Law Commission and Government are currently trying to address.
Given those present inequalities, many couples seem to decide that marriage simply offers greater security than cohabitation.
The latest tranche of data from the ONS may indicate that the awareness of such issues is starting to have an impact on a domestic rather than just a parliamentary basis.
Whilst such developments might seem to finally render one of Walter Pitkin's works redundant, they may breathe life into another. As well as contemplating priorities and possibilities in life, he penned a book entitled 'The Art and Business of Story Writing'.
Both he and the middle-aged couples who are choosing to wed in increasing numbers will doubtless have understood the value of a happy ending.
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Research presented at a meeting last year of the American Heart Association shows that eating three kiwis a day is linked with decreased blood pressure. That study included 188 men and women age 55 and older, with slightly high blood pressure. They were instructed to eat three kiwis a day, or an apple a day for eight weeks. The researchers found that the people who ate the kiwis had lower systolic blood pressure levels than those who ate the apples. Kiwis are known to be rich in lutein, which means they have antioxidant properties. Flickr photo by whologwhy.
A 2005 study in the journal Hypertension found that it's possible to get the blood pressure-lowering effects from potassium-containing foods, instead of just from a potassium supplement. Researchers from St. George's Medical School in London found that people who consumed potassium citrate -- which is found naturally in food -- has the same effects in decreasing blood pressure in people with hypertension as those who took potassium chloride, which is only available as a supplement, Harvard Medical School reported. Flickr photo by robin_24.
Watermelon is not just refreshing, it contains a bounty of nutrients including fiber, lycopenes, vitamin A and potassium, according to the Mother Nature Network. And, a study from Florida State University researchers shows that an amino acid found -- called L-citrulline/L-arginine -- in watermelon could also have blood pressure-lowering effects. The researchers had nine people with prehypertension take 6 grams of the L-citrulline/L-arginine amino acid a day over a six-week period. They found that the study participants had lower blood pressure, as well as better functioning of their arteries. Flickr photo by Gudlyf.
Spuds may get a bad rap in the foodsphere, but a small study presented last year at a meeting of the American Chemical Society showed that the purple-hued root vegetables have blood pressure-lowering powers that are nearly as effective as oatmeal, without packing on pounds. The study included 18 people with high blood pressure. They ate six to eight purple potatoes (including the skins!) twice a day, for a month-long period. The researchers found that the study participants' systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped at the end of the research period. (Though, it should be noted that this was just an observational study, and the potato-eaters' blood pressure was not compared to people who did not eat purple potatoes during the study.) Flickr photo by Taransa.
Eating a lot of tofu and other soy foods -- like soy nuts, miso, edamame, tempeh and soy milk -- is linked with decreased blood pressure, WebMD reported. The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, included 5,000 people whose diets were tracked over 20 years. The researchers found that the ones who consumed the most isoflavones -- found in soy, as well as peanuts and green tea -- had lower systolic blood pressure than those who consumed the fewest isoflavones, according to WebMD. Flickr photo by FotoosVanRobin.
Chocolate is linked with a lower BMI -- and it could be beneficial for people with hypertension. A 2010 review of studies in the journal BMC Medicine showed that flavanols, which are found in chocolate, seemed to promote the dilation of blood vessels, which in turn can lower blood pressure. "Flavanols have been shown to increase the formation of endothelial nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation and consequently may lower blood pressure," study researcher Dr. Karin Ried, of the University of Adelaide in Austria, said in a statement. "There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate. We've found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure." Flickr photo by Siona Karen.
If you love a little heat with your food, it could be doing your blood pressure a favor, too. A 2010 study in the journal Cell Metabolism showed that capsaicin -- the spicy ingredient in chili peppers -- could help to lower blood pressure in rats with hypertension. However, the researchers from the Third Military Medical University in China noted that the results need to be replicated in humans. Flickr photo by Trostle.
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